The Piina People of Hiva Oa

This is another story about relatives who fought.

About 1800 there was a tribe called the Piina on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas islands. They had lived in a valley called Hanamenu for thousands of years. But at this time, they were in trouble, because each year there were fewer and fewer of them. This was because they were being eaten by an enemy tribe.

These Piina people finally came to the point where they decided that if they did nothing, there were could come a day when there would no longer be any of them left. So they decided that they should either attack their enemies and be destroyed in war, or they should build canoes and go and look for a new land.

They asked the tribal prophet, the tau’a, what they should do.

The tau’a went into the mountains to seek an answer from the ancestral spirits.

After several days he returned and he said that the ancestral spirits wanted them to build canoes and leave to go and look for a new land.

They started to build canoes. They worked in secret so that their enemies would not discover and make trouble for them. After a period of time seven canoes were prepared, enough to carry the whole tribe away from their home valley of Hanamenu. We don’t know how they bid farewell to Hamamenu, the valley of their ancestors. Perhaps they danced as a farewell to Hanamenu, and as a greeting to the new land that they were going to find.

Early one morning they departed in six canoes. The seventh canoe was waiting for the chief’s daughter who was close to giving birth. As the six canoes were leaving they passed near their enemies valley. Their enemies heard the sounds of the canoes and called out in the morning darkness to know who was there. The Piina people called out to their enemies that it was them and that they were leaving to go and search for new lands.

Then their enemies were sad because they remembered that through marriage they were related to the Piina people. The enemies called out to the Piina people that they were sorry that they were enemies and that they would not fight them anymore. The Piina people called back across the waves and said that they accepted the words of their enemies but they had to go because their ancestral spirits had told them to go.

The enemies went to Hanamenu and found the seventh canoe and established peace with those people so they did not leave.

Many years later a ship came to this island of Hiva Oa. Some of the sailors on the ship were from Napuka in the Tuamotu islands. They spoke with the people of Hiva Oa and from the common language that they shared and the common names, the people of Hiva Oa realized that these sailors were descendants of the Piina people who had reached Napuka in the Tuamotu islands.


Sometimes the young men in gangs fight with one another. Sometimes they fight because they are Tongans and they are fighting Samoans because Tongans have always fought Samoans. Or it is some other groups that are fighting. But, perhaps, if we look back in time we will see that the start of their anger to one another is that long ago, there were two brothers who fought one another. It is time to end the war of the brothers.

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Revised: March 1, 1996

Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff